Quite often I’m asked a variation on the same question. Sometimes the question is asked by visitors to my nursery; other times I find the question in my e-mail from a reader of this column. And sometimes the question remains unasked by someone who doesn’t want to appear “dumb”.

This is the question: “How easy is it to plant a tree?”

That is most certainly not a dumb question, but often it’s only half a question. Why? Because when most people ask the question, they really want to know how easy it is to plant trees successfully so that they thrive and grow to maturity.

Another point to remember is that some trees are easier to grow than others, regardless of your level of expertise. I’ll have some suggestions for you in this column. First, let’s think about the absolute basics of introducing the tree into your landscape.

Different varieties of trees have different needs, but a non-profit web site operated by American Forests has some excellent general tree-planting tips, including the following:

  • Select a site with enough room for roots and branches to reach full size.
  • Avoid overhead and underground utilities.
  • Prepare a planting area as deep as the root ball and three to five times its diameter by loosening the soil.
  • Dig a hole in the middle of the area and set the root ball even with the ground level.
  • Use water to settle soil and remove air pockets in planting area.
  • Stake the tree to flex with the wind only if tree is unable to stand up to wind.
  • Spread a two to three inch layer of mulch on entire area, but not within six inches of tree trunk.

You can find the entire article, along with some helpful diagrams here:

There are ways you can put the odds in your favor when it comes to planting trees that are more likely to thrive and grow successfully. Here’s a word I want you to remember: Transplants.

Transplants are hardier, huskier, and more all-around balanced plants than seedlings.When planted in your landscape, the transplant has a greater chance of survival since it has already survived the shock of being transplanted once at the nursery.

In a future column, I’ll have some suggestions for evergreen and deciduous transplants, but today, with spring in the air, let’s think about some beautiful flowering trees that work very well (and are much easier to grow) as transplants.

The White Flowering Cherry, (Prunus yedoensis). This is also known as Yoshino Cherry and is a rapidly growing tree that is extraordinarily beautiful in Spring when it is covered with white blossoms that resemble cotton candy. These trees can eventually reach 40 ft. and make excellent street trees.

Kwanzan Cherry. I’d say this is the showiest of all Japanese trees. I love the awesome bundles of large pink blossoms that last longer than those of other flowering cherries.

Flowering Pear. As I’ve mention in this column before, the Flowering Pear is a true harbinger of spring! Choose a “transplant” and this time next year you’ll be enjoying the showy white flowers that appear in spring.

Flowering Crabapple. The bloom of the flowering crabapple can be red, white or pink, and can be quite dazzling when you mix them up. Look for transplants about 3 ft to 4 ft tall.

Forest Pansy Redbud. Something a little out of the ordinary, but well worth planting if you can find it! It is a beautiful ornamental tree that perfect for the small garden as well as more ambitious landscaping projects. Unlike the native Redbud (cercis Canadensis), the Forest Pansy has leaves of a deep maroon color.

So, if you’re looking for an easier and more foolproof way of planting healthy successful trees without a lot of worry or risk, remember to look for “transplants!”

Let me know if I can help you with your specific tree planting challenges.